Michael Jackson’s struggle against drug addiction was put on display during opening statements at his mother’s wrongful death case against concert promoter AEG Live.
Competing portraits of Jackson emerged during the first hours of the trial yesterday, with Katherine Jackson’s lawyer acknowledging the pop star’s drug problems while also trying to show he was a caring son and father.
But AEG’s lawyer Marvin Putnam said the singer’s guarded private life meant the company was unaware that he was using the powerful anaesthetic propofol.
“The truth is, Michael Jackson fooled everyone. He made sure that no one, nobody, knew his deepest darkest secrets,” he said.
A jury of six men and six women will decide whether AEG should pay Jackson’s mother and three children after his 2009 death from an overdose of propofol.
Millions and possibly billions of dollars in damages are at stake in the case that opened with private photos and video clips of Jackson dancing.
“This case is about personal choices,” Mr Putnam said about Jackson’s decision to be treated by physician Conrad Murray.
“Also, it was about his personal responsibility. There’s no question that Michael Jackson’s death was a terrible tragedy.
“I believe the evidence will show it was not a tragedy of AEG Live’s making.”
Katherine Jackson’s lawyer Brian Panish said AEG created a conflict of interest for Murray and forced him to choose between a large payday and Jackson’s care.
He told the jury AEG was feeling competitive pressures and wanted the Jackson tour to work at all costs.
“They didn’t care who got lost in the wash,” Mr Panish told the jury.
He played a song that Jackson wrote for his three children, and a note the singer had written for his mother that brought tears to her eyes as she sat in court.
Katherine Jackson sued AEG Live in September 2010, claiming it failed properly to investigate Murray before allowing him to serve as Jackson’s doctor as he prepared for his 'This Is It' shows.
She is also suing on behalf of her son’s three children – Prince, Paris and Blanket.
AEG denies it hired Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death.
AEG’s lawyers have said that the company could not have foreseen the circumstances that led to the singer’s death aged 50.
Katherine Jackson dabbed her eyes after Mr Panish read a note that her son wrote to her, detailing his feelings about her.
It said: “All my success has been based on the fact that I wanted to make my mother proud, to win her smile of approval.”
The personal touches came after Mr Panish detailed Jackson’s struggles with prescription drug abuse throughout the last half of his life.
He also showed jurors numerous emails sent between AEG executives concerning Jackson’s health and their concerns that he would not be able to perform 50 planned concerts in London.